You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘My Love, Don’t Cross That River’

South Korea's most successful indie feature ever is a documentary about "100-year-old lovebirds."

Byoungman Jo, Gyeyeul Kang.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4063314/

A celebration of very longterm marital contentment, “My Love, Don’t Cross That River” portrays the blissful kinship of true soulmates in their nineties when we meet them — a juncture at which Death does not spare meeting them, either. Moyoung Jin’s documentary hit a sentimental sweet spot on home turf, becoming South Korea’s most successful independent theatrical feature (fictive or otherwise) ever. Cultural differences and less potent later progress are likely to make this undeniably charming vérité romance have a much smaller Stateside imprint as it rolls out in NYC cinemas June 17, and Greater Los Angeles ones the following week. But it should do very well as a home-formats item within Korean-American communities, perhaps even enjoying crossover traffic to ethnically unaffiliated senior markets, primarily via broadcast sales.

“100-year-old lovebirds” Byoungman Jo and Gyeyeul Chang are already somewhat famous for their devotional longevity when we first glimpse them after 75 years of marriage. They’re cute as kittens — and despite their advanced ages, nearly as playful, with a relationship that could hardly be more visibly still in the stages of “first love.” (We see them good-naturedly pranking one another with leaf, water and snow “fights,” amongst other hijinks outside their rural home.) They wed in the late 1930s, when he was an orphan hired to work in her parents’ smithery.

Decades later, children visit, some now grandparents themselves. But when the health of one twee elder declines, the other must figure out how to go on after the inseparable duo is separated.

“My Love” is charming, but not always convincing in equal measure. There’s a certain air of suspicious contrivance: Do the lead characters really always wear such pristine, loudly colored silks to do yard work and so forth? In that and other ways, they sometimes seem to playing up for the camera — or rather Jin seems to be semi-staging an idyll of long-shelf-life love high on adorability and low on conflict. The subjects (reportedly shot over 15 months’ course) appear magically oblivious to the presence of a film crew, without being the least bit senile. Like grandparents who put on a show of folksy sweetness when the youngsters show up — or like a lot of reality TV — “My Love” tugs at the emotions with a practiced grip.

At least in this case, those emotions tapped are sentimentally tender rather than gloating and cynical. It’s a sweet movie — just not not wholly a “documentary” to whose reality you’d necessarily trust your own grandmother when depositing her at the rest home. There, one would require a little less treacly salesmanship, and a little more verified fact-checking. It’s not that “My Love” feels inherently dubious; it’s that its execution is just a little too smiling-through-tears slick to be swallowed whole.

Film Review: 'My Love, Don't Cross That River'

Reviewed at Hot Docs, April 27, 2015. (Also in Visions du Réel, Los Angeles, London film festivals.) Running time: 86 MIN. (Original title: “Nim-ah, Geu Gang-eool Geon-neo-ji Mao”)

Production: (Documentary — S. Korea) A Film Movement release of a Deemyung Culture Factory presentation of an Angus Film production. Produced by Kyungsoo Han. Executive producer, Junhyuck Seo.

Crew: Directed, written by Moyoung Jin. Camera (color, HD), Jin; editor, Jinsik Hyun; music, Minu Jung; sound, Heeku Jung, Jeeun Kim; assistant director, Jeongjun Lee.

With: Byoungman Jo, Gyeyeul Kang.

More Film

  • Steve Bannon appears in The Brink

    Sundance Film Review: Stephen K. Bannon in 'The Brink'

    Stephen K. Bannon drinks Kombucha (who knew?), the fermented tea beverage for health fanatics that tastes like…well, if they ever invented a soft drink called Germs, that’s what Kombucha tastes like. In “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s fly-on-the-wall, rise-and-fall-and-rise-of-a-white-nationalist documentary, Bannon explains that he likes Kombucha because it gives him a lift; he drinks it for [...]

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Cinematographers Praise Academy Reversal: 'We Thank You for Your Show of Respect'

    Cinematographers who fought the decision to curtail four Oscar presentations have praised the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for reversing the exclusions. “We thank you for your show of respect for the hard-working members of the film community, whose dedication and exceptional talents deserve the public recognition this reversal now allows them to enjoy,” [...]

  • Peter Parker and Miles Morales in

    'Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse' Colored Outside the Lines

    The well-worn superhero genre and one of its best-known icons are unlikely vehicles for creating a visually fresh animated feature. But Sony Pictures Animation’s work on the Oscar-nominated animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” shows throwing out the rule book and letting everyone play in the creative sandbox can pay off big. “I think we [...]

  • Denis Villeneuve

    Denis Villeneuve's 'Dune' Gets November 2020 Release Date

    Warner Bros. has scheduled Legendary’s science-fiction tentpole “Dune” for a Nov. 20, 2020, release in 3D and Imax. “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa is in negotiations to join the “Dune” reboot with Timothee Chalamet, Javier Bardem, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgard, Dave Bautista, Josh Brolin, Oscar Isaac, and Zendaya. Production is expected to launch in the spring [...]

  • James Bond Spectre

    Bond 25 Moved Back Two Months to April 2020

    James Bond will arrive two months later than planned as MGM moved back the release date on the untitled Bond 25 movie from Feb. 14 to April 8, 2020 — a Wednesday before the start of Easter weekend. It’s the second delay for Bond 25. MGM and Eon originally announced in 2017 that the film [...]

  • Fast and Furious 8

    'Fast and Furious 9' Release Date Pushed Back Six Weeks

    Universal Pictures has shifted “Fast and Furious 9” back six weeks from April 10 to May 22, 2020 — the start of the Memorial Day weekend. It’s the second backwards shift for the title. In 2017, Universal moved the film back a year from April 19, 2019, to April 10, 2020. Both dates fall on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content